April 10, 2012
AKRON – Making his first career start, J.R. Leonardi was great on the mound for the Pitt baseball team, leading the Panthers to a 9-2 win at Akron on Tuesday. The sophomore pitched 5.1 innings to pick up the win in his starting debut, striking out eight batters.
"The coaches have been prepping me for a start the past few weeks, so I was definitely ready for it to happen. I felt good warming up and just went out there and tried to execute,” Leonardi said. “I got a little tired as the game went on and unfortunately, in the fifth, they strung a few hits together, but (Dave) Yakopec came in and shut them down. All around it was a really good team win today.”
Casey Roche drove in three runs, including the first two of the game. With two outs and the bases load, the sophomore hit a two-run single to left field, scoring Anthony Defabio and Boo Vazquez to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Roche also had three walks in the game and added a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. That RBI, his third of the game, helped put a stop to an Akron comeback after the Zips had scored two runs to cut the lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The runs in the sixth were the only two allowed in the game by Leonardi. He cruised through the first five innings of his first start, bolstered by strikeouts of the first five batters he faced. Four Zips went down swinging and one was retired looking in the first two innings alone.
“JR did a solid job for us today and Dave came in a did well,” Jordano said. “It was a very cold day but we played a clean game and took advantage of some opportunities. It was good to get a win.”
The Panthers, who entered the game with the fewest errors in the BIG EAST, committed just one defensive miscue against the Zips. The error occurred in the seventh inning, but Yakopec got the next batter to ground into a double play to end the inning.
Yakopec pitched the final 3.2 innings to pick up the first save of his freshman season. He entered the game with a runner on third and one out in the sixth inning, but closed out the frame with a groundout and a flyout to right field.
Leonardi and Yakopec were in control for most of the game. The two combined for 10 strikeouts and just one walk.
A pair of freshman, Vazquez and Elvin Soto, helped pace Pitt offensively. Vazquez reached base three times with a single, double, and walk, while Soto also reached three times with a pair of singles and a walk.
Rick Devereaux entered the game as the BIG EAST leader and sixth in the NCAA in RBI. He added one more to his total with a double to right-center field, giving him 40 on the season.
The Panthers improved to 15-15 overall with the win. They will look to keep the momentum going with a home game against Penn State on Wednesday at 6 p.m.